A score to settle

2014-02-22 00:00

THE Nedbank Cup comes to Pietermaritzburg this evening when Steve Komphela’s Maritzburg United host Clive Barker’s Mpumalanga Black Aces at Harry Gwala Stadium in a 8.15 pm kick-off.

There is little separating the sides going into the match, though Aces will be taking heart from their 2-1 PSL victory over United at Mbombela Stadium last weekend.

Komphela was happy with his side’s display in that match, which saw the Team of Choice creating numerous chances. United have scored an impressive six goals in Komphela’s three matches since taking over as coach — a sign of encouragement given the side’s well documented finishing woes — and that is no coincidence, according to centre-back Mario Booysen.

“We are playing within a very disciplined system and the guys are reacting well to it,” the lanky defender told Weekend Witness this week. “We are going forward much more positively and we are doing everything as a unit.”

Team selection from both sides will be interesting tonight. Aces were in league action midweek, and may be forced into making changes ahead of their third match in seven days, while Komphela has suggested that he will be mixing things up somewhat to give some of his less used players game time.

Mohammed Yakubu and Kurt Lentjies both come into contention for United after recovering from illness and injury respectively.

The side devoted time this week to defending and attacking set pieces, including penalties. A draw will see the match move into extra time and then penalties, with no replays scheduled. United will feel confident should the game go to spot kicks with Shu-Aib Walters a proven match winner in past shoot-outs. Though his form has been questionable in United’s last two outings, Walters remains the side’s first-choice goalkeeper and he is relishing what tonight might bring.

“As a goalkeeper you always look forward to penalty shootouts and it gives us the opportunity to be a stand-out hero on the day,” said Walters. “But we want to just focus on winning the game. I think that losing to them [Aces] last week had given us all the motivation we need.”

On his own form, Walters hoped that his bad patch was well behind him now.

“I’m not one for making excuses, but I have been battling with a [knee] injury and I don’t think that I was at my best,” he said. “Hopefully that is in the past now and I can go back to doing what I did for the whole of last year.”

KZN’s other two clubs are also in cup action this weekend. Golden Arrows host Polokwane City at King Zwelithini Stadium this afternoon (6 pm), while Craig Rosslee’s AmaZulu will be favoured to overpower Kimberly-based National First Division outfit United FC tomorrow at Olympia Stadium (3 pm).

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